Roberto Rosselini’s trailblazing film “Rome, Open City” plays at the Detroit Film Theatre Saturday as part of the DFT 101 series. Made in 1945, Rosselini and screenwriter Sergio Amidei made it clear that this film would be a history of the Roman people under Nazi occupation.
The title refers to the city being free for residents to go about their business without fear of bombs falling. But life for Rome’s citizens is still difficult with the Nazi occupation as there is a curfew, basic foods are rationed, and the Nazis are still searching for those working for the Resistance and will go to any length to destroy those in the Resistance and anyone providing them with assistance. As the film opens, German SS troops storm a rooming house where Resistance fighter Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero) lives. But his sympathetic landlady has warned him early enough for him to escape. He flees to the home of another Resistance fighter, Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), where he encounters Francesco’s pregnant and war weary fiancée Pina (Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role). She gives him a rough time, thinking he is a cop, but eventually realizes he is a fellow Resistance member and allows him to stay.
Francesco and Pina ask Catholic priest Don Pietro Pellegrini (Aldo Fabrizi) to marry them, even though Francesco is an atheist. They choose him because he is also a member of the Resistance and not a fascist. Giorgio also asks Don Pietro to help in his work, which the priest accepts as he feels the work the Resistance movement is doing is considered God’s work as well.
Giorgio’s girlfriend Marina (Maria Michi), a cabaret performer, doesn’t even know where Giorgio is in hiding. She then double crosses Giorgio by giving information to the Gestapo in exchange for luxury items and drugs.
All the things the Resistance fighters do try to improve their lives and the lives of others will have tragic consequences….
“Rome, Open City” threw the door open for Italian neorealism. Many audiences found the film so realistic they thought they were watching a documentary. It would win the Grand Prize at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film has recently been restored and given newly translated subtitles. The film is in Italian and German with English subtitles.
Show time is Saturday, December 19 at 4 P.M. only. Tickets are $5; members of the Detroit Institute of Arts are admitted free. Just show your membership card at the door. Advanced tickets may be purchased here.